Daily Press Briefing

Statements made by
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson
(excerpts)

(Paris, March 29, 2007)

[Please note that only the original French text issued by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs may be considered official.]


EUROPEAN UNION

European Affairs Minister Delegate Catherine Colonna will take part in the informal meeting of EU foreign ministers (Gymnich) in Bremen on March 30 and 31.

At the meeting the following subjects will be addressed: western Balkans, and Kosovo especially, the Mideast and the revival of the peace process along with the consequences of the formation of the new Palestinian unity government, and Iran. Ministers will discuss strengthening the EU neighborhood policy and relations between the EU and central Asia.

IRAN

The Iranian ambassador to France, Ali Ahani, was summoned today to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

We informed him that the arrest of 15 Royal Navy sailors by the Iranian authorities on March 23 was a matter of deep concern to the French authorities, as proved by President Chirac’s statements.

We reaffirmed our solidarity with the British and asked the Iranian authorities to release the detained sailors as soon as possible. Meanwhile the Iranians must permit the right of visit to be exercised.

RIYADH SUMMIT

Q - Do you think that the resolution at the Riyadh summit is going to give a real boost to reviving the peace process? How do you see the Quartet’s role in this context?

The resolution at the Riyadh summit you’re referring to renews the offer of negotiation made by the Arab states in 2002.

I would remind you that France has always supported this Arab peace initiative of 2002, which is part of the roadmap and proposes the normalization of relations between Israel and the Arab states in exchange for the return of the Hebrew state to the 1967 borders, the foundation of a Palestinian state and the resolution of the Palestinian refugee problem. In our view it is on this basis that the peace process must be pursued.

The Quartet obviously has a decisive role to play. As you know, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in the context of his tour of the region, suggested a meeting be held soon between the Quartet members, Israel, the Palestinian Authority and several Arab states.

Q - What’s your reaction to the decisions that the Riyadh summit is preparing to take? Concerning the Palestinian question, Iraq, Lebanon, Darfur…?

As the summit in Riyadh is still going on, you’ll understand that we cannot give you a reaction to the various problems you raise.

ISRAEL

Q - The number two in the Israeli government, Shimon Peres, has said that Israel cannot accept the Arab peace initiative as it is. You’ve always backed this initiative. Are you calling on Israel to accept it?

We have taken note of this reaction. We have also noted however the statement by Mr. Olmert who said he hoped the Arab countries would take forward the peace initiative proposed by Saudi Arabia, which he considered to be a highly positive development.

As I have just pointed out, as far as we are concerned, the Arab peace initiative remains the basis on which the peace process must be pursued.

SOMALIA

Q - What is your reaction to the new fighting which broke out in Mogadishu today?

We call for a halt to the violence whatever its source.

As we’ve emphasized in the past, we think that the deterioration in the security situation shows the urgency for the Somali transition government to hold a national reconciliation conference. The political process of dialogue and openness, which must also be as inclusive as possible, should lead to a settlement of the crisis which has been going on in Somalia for 15 years.

MISSILE DEFENSE

Q - Do you agree with Mr. Solana that the European Union should debate the proposed American missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic? And what’s your reaction to Mr. Putin’s repeated concerns to Mr. Bush?

The question of siting the American missile defense system on European territory is primarily a matter for discussion between the United States and Poland on one hand, and the Czech Republic on the other.

We’re talking about a bilateral agreement, to which France is not party, for the establishment of an American national missile defense system, not an EU or NATO project.

Given the importance of the project and its potential ramifications, it serves a purpose to have a dialogue in the interest of deepening understanding of its implications.

As the project has aroused concern among the Russian authorities, it is important for the United States and Russia to continue their discussions in order to dispel misunderstandings./.

Embassy of France, March 29, 2007